Remarks by Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson

Wind Powering America Event
June 21, 1999

Good morning and thank you Randy for that introduction.

On Earth Day at the United Nations last April, I announced that the power harnessed from the wind now exceeds 10,000 megawatts. Our work together over the past two decades has contributed much toward reaching that milestone. When you compare today’s technology with that of the early 1980s, it is clear how far we’ve come. In 1980, capturing the wind cost about 40 cents per kilowatt hour. But thanks to our combined efforts, it is now about a nickel. That’s real progress.

However, our job is not yet done. If wind is to remain the world’s fastest growing energy source, our products have to be even more efficient. We want tomorrow’s generators to produce power at half the cost of today’s machines. That is no small challenge, but this Administration is committed to making that goal a reality. We are committed to supporting high quality research and development, such as the National Wind Technology Center in Boulder, Colorado, a world-class research facility.

And the Clinton/Gore Administration is taking the initiative in other ways to make wind a permanent and growing presence in America’s energy portfolio. The President’s budget includes a proposal to extend the wind power production credit, which is set to expire soon. And the Administration’s electricity restructuring bill includes a renewable portfolio standard which requires electric suppliers to tap renewable sources for 7.5 percent of the power they produce by 2010. The bill also would establish a public benefits fund which would, among other things, support renewable energy research and development.

While we had a setback last week when the Senate failed to support an effort by Senator Jeffords to restore funding for the Department of Energy’s renewable energy programs, the Administration remains committed – I remain committed – to securing sufficient funding for renewable energy.

For example, today I am proud to announce that the Department of Energy will invest $1.2 million in 10 wind turbine testing projects in 10 different states. The funding will be used to provide support for the design and installation of new small wind turbines for field testing. One of these projects will be in Maine, your neighbor down the road.

It is appropriate that we have this conference here in Vermont, a place where wind energy entrepreneurs thrive. The pioneering “Putnam” machine ran from 1941 to 1945 in Rutland. Until the 1970s it was the largest wind turbine ever built. And some of the Department of Energy’s pioneering work in turbine development was done right here in Vermont.

Today, this state is home to Atlantic Orient, one of our technology development partners; Northern Power Systems and Green Mountain Energy Resources, one of the nation’s leading green power providers.

And Vermont is home also to a congressional delegation that supports the development of wind power and other renewable energy sources. I’m glad Senator Jeffords is here today, and I also want to thank Senator Leahy and Representative Sanders for the work they do to support renewable energy. They are true friends.

Today, I am pleased to make another announcement – an initiative called Wind Powering America -- that will dramatically increase the use of wind energy in the United States. It will establish new sources of income for American farmers, other rural landowners, and Native Americans, while at the same time helping to meet the growing national demand for green power.

Wind Powering America will double U.S. wind energy capacity by 2005, and double it again by 2010 to create enough energy to fulfill the annual energy needs of three million households. By 2020, we want wind energy to be a major commercial power generation technology, helping supply the nation’s electricity needs and leading the charge in the transition to renewable energy.

Wind Powering America will play to the strengths of our nation’s regions. Here in the Northeast, it will harness the wind’s power while respecting the region’s environmental and aesthetic values. In the Great Plains, it will spur the rural economic vitality that often follows wind power development. In the Northwest, we’ll look at how wind fits into the mix for a region with very competitive energy supplies. And in the Southwest, we hope to build on the wind power market momentum taking hold in Texas.

We can’t tackle all four regions at once, but we can make a start today. We look forward to your input as Dan Reicher, my Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, and his team work on the action plan for Wind Powering America. The time is right for wind to assume its proper role in our national energy supply.

I’ll leave you with my best wishes for a productive conference and my sincere hope that you will join us in Wind Powering America. Thank you for having me here.